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June 5, 2017, 12:00 AM

Weather and Repentance


I recently read about Congressman Tim Walberg who is skeptical that humans are contributing in any significant way to climate change and pretty much opposes any legislation aimed toward curbing carbon emissions, which the overwhelming majority of climate scientists declare are altering the planet’s weather.

But, Walberg hedges his bets, by saying that IF global warming is real and being driven by human activity,  he is confident that God will just fix it and we don’t have to worry about it.  His actual words were… “Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, He can take care of it.”

His remark reminded me of a notorious interview with a senatorial candidate in Missouri who said that in cases of rape, a woman’s body had some sort of defense mechanism that would prevent her from getting pregnant, as a result.  It was a ludicrous statement based in magical thinking rather than fact or science, and it cost the man the election.

Walberg essentially holds that if humans are being irresponsible about the world which God has given them, God will simply fix it.  The implication is that this “fix” will be basically miraculous and painless.  It certainly won’t require us to alter our lifestyles in any significant way.  We will be able to keep on doing what we have been doing and God will just clean up after us.

As a Christian, Rep. Walberg should be familiar with the concept of repentance.

To repent is not just to express regret for prior misdeeds.  It is to change your ways.  The Greek word in the New Testament for repentance was “metanoia” and it meant to change one’s mind in a way that changes your actions.

Walberg may be correct that the ecosystems of our planet have a powerful self-correcting mode.  But the odds are that if it kicks in, it won’t be at all pleasant.

When you knock nature out of balance, the process of getting it back there is inevitably messy and often cruel. And, it is always the poor and weak who are hardest hit.  The sort of people for whom Jesus was most concerned.

And sometimes, there is no fix.

There is an old joke about a lumberjack who is applying for a job.  His would-be employer asks, “How good are you ate cutting down trees?”

“There’s no one better,” responds the lumberjack.

“Okay,” says the skeptical hiring manager, “Where have you worked in the past?”

“The Sahara Forest!” the lumberjack proudly responds.

“Ha!  The Sahara is a desert!” retorted the manager.

“It is now!” answered the lumberjack.

That’s a joke…but not as big a one as you think.  Back during the days of the Roman Empire, much of what is now the Sahara (Arabic for “desert”) was forest.  But it was cut down to build cities and ships for the empire.  The resulting deforestation created the desert we see today and which has existed for centuries.  It still isn't fixed.

The same mechanism threatened to turn vast parts of the Unted States into wasteland in the 1920s, until the government stepped in and instituted polices and offered programs which effectively put an end to the Dust Bowl.  I like to think God fixed the problem by providing wise people who realized that common practices had to change or the country would starve.  But it required hard work and massive change in both thinking and behavior.

The planetary ecosystem is responding to our activities with increasingly deadly heat waves that have killed thousands and rendered large agricultural areas desolate in places like India and the Middle East.  We saw something similar in California for several years.  Storm systems are growing stronger, and a whole range of natural systems are being altered in ways that has even the Pentagon says that climate change is going to cause global political destabilization and war.

The Pentagon isn’t known for its hippy tree-huggers.

But, so long as we continue our addiction to fossil fuels and wasteful living, the situation will worsen.  The result could be war and famine…which might radically reduce the population and thus “fix” the problem, but not in a way that most of us would desire.  Especially if our children and grandchildren are the ones who get “fixed.”  I wonder if Congressman Walberg would find that acceptable?

The idea that God will simply swoop in and painlessly relieve the consequences of our selfishness and failure to be proper stewards of the wondrous world we have been given hardly comports with any biblical teaching I know.  After all, the Apostle Paul warned, “The wages of sin is death.”  Which is a long way from, “Don’t worry, God will just fix it.  No need to change your ways.”

Instead, God calls us to repentance and always to responsibility and humility.  We cannot just burn up the world because we find it inconvenient and costly not to do so.  We cannot ignore the command to love our neighbors (which means not poisoning and polluting the world we share) and assume God will just let us act like spoiled, selfish vandals without facing the consequences of our actions.

I can’t see anything in Jesus’ teachings which allow for such behavior, even if the Congressman and others do.

There are some Christians who like to say, “The Earth is not my home!” as though that grants them license to treat it as their garbage dump, instead.  But, Jesus made it pretty clear that we will be held to accounts over the way we treated one another, and blithely trashing the glorious creation God has given us, does not strike me as any kind of virtue for which we will gain eternal approval.

Being proper stewards of creation requires responsibility and a measure of sacrifice for the sake of others, including those who are yet unborn.  I am frankly mystified by those who claim to care so much for the unborn when they’re still in utero, but are unwilling to expend the same passion for insuring those children and their children  have a safe and livable environment once the hit the atmosphere.

For millennia, much of the human race has acted as though the Earth is an inexhaustible resource.  But it is finite, like we who draw our life from it.  It is time we repent of that attitude.  It is time to realize we love one another by protecting and preserving the world we all share.  This is love of neighbor.  And if that doesn’t move you…it is also love of self.  It is also respect for the One who created the world.

If we refuse to do that out of greed, laziness, and lack of vision, then it’s hard to see why God would offer us an easy fix for our self-inflicted crisis, because we will have failed to take the first step toward salvation…Repentance.


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